4 10/04/2012 entertainment Technology

Game on

Now that the run and my 43rd birthday are out of the way, I can now move back into the somewhat challenging and precarious role of dad.

Back in 1977, Atari inc. released a video game system that is pretty much seen as the precursor to the home video game systems used in almost 50 per cent of all households today.  When we got an Atari, a post divorce we still love you gift, I was around 9 or ten years old.  We were living in an apartment at the time and me and the other latch key kids would scoot home after school and engage in a number of basic, yet wildly entertaining games that pale in comparison to the intricate details and layered stories of today’s video games.  There were Asteroids, Combat, Missile Command, Breakout and Superbreakout and of course the original Pong.  Hours upon hours were spent playing these games in between bites of cheddar cheese, onion and HP sauce sandwiches (amazing what you remember), my friends and I, with blurred eyes, would laugh and joke and preen about being the best Atari player in the world.

atari-vcs.jpgAs I aged, so did video games with Atari system bowing down to the Intellivison console which had games like Space Armada and the first sports game I remember playing, Baseball.  Now in my early teens, sleepovers consisted of watching scrambled porn or the blue movies on late night CityTV and playing video baseball until we literally fell asleep on the mattresses in the basement with controllers (attached with a phone like curly cord) in our barbeque corn nut covered hands.

Fast forward to the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Donkey Kong through to the Sega Genesis and its wicked driving games and the time eater golf game to eventually the first Playstations and then Xboxes and Wiis  that sit in our family rooms and I still remain a fan.

Which leads me to my point.  I helped create two perfect little playing partners and obviously have found a connection through video games as the three of us can easily kill an hour, squashed on the couch, eating popcorn and trying to beat each other in the various games out there.

What various games you ask?  Well, here is the rub. While some of the games of my youth usually involved some sort of destruction, whether the other tanks in Combat or the many buildings in Rampage, the level of detail and graphic nature of some of today’s games are obviously disturbing. I am not talking about the pathetic and misogynistic gangster and thug games, more the war based strategy type games.  Thing is, I like these games, the storytelling is unbelievable and the actual game play is so sophisticated and exhilarating, that after about 20 minutes, I need a break.

Rampage rocked.

Well in place of past renting, I broke down and bought one of these games this past weekend.  It was one of those whimsical moments where I was feeling the pressure from Hudson and I bent my own rules about mature video games for the sole reason of being the cool parent and plastering as a smile on his goofy face.  I had never played this particular game, but I knew from the media noise that it was a detailed war-based game that is peppered with rich language and violence.

Look, I think I know my kids for the most part (fingers crossed).  They are really nice boys, with strong values and sharp intuition of what is right and what is wrong. They are also two of the least aggressive boys I have ever met.  I admitted to them yesterday (and after a couple of head shakes from my wife) that buying this game and letting them jump into it may have been a bit premature. That I needed to play it for a little bit (oh darn) to get a better handle of its content.

So I did just that last night and my wife and I came to a decision that they can play it with a couple of conditions. Only when we are home and not with any of their friends and always under their 60 minute a day of screen time umbrella.

This may seem a bit contradictory to my previous admissions of the joys of playing vids with my buds, but for now, because we believe this is a family based decision, we are keeping it tight to our (bulletproof?) vests and not letting our influence trickle out into the neighbourhood. We know families on both sides of the fence: Ones that let their kids play anything and everything and ones that are comfortable only with the supermarios of the videogame world so we are not (that) worried about being judged. And by only playing when we are home, we can keep a close watch on how they are interacting with these games, if it gets too much, I will toss the game, simple as that, as it was used game and did not cost that much.

I am not sure this is the best decision.  But for now it is the decision we made and we are going to see how it goes.

Guilt induced picture alert.

bad parent alarm.jpgAs always, interested in the feedback of other parents.


  • Jen

    I feel fortunate that, despite my son’s many friends into CoD and Black Ops and the like, he has zero interest. He will play a few sports video games, he really likes to recruit the players and focus on trading and stats but mostly he prefers the hockey net in the backyard or even the dartboard downstairs. This has meant on a few occasions and with particular friends that he is on the outside but I am glad I haven’t had to think too hard about this and figure out where to draw the line.
    What about taking your boys to laser tag or paintball? Something fun you can do together with a similar vibe? Am I totally off base here?

  • Christine

    I have a problem with my 11yr old playing CoD or Black Ops. I think it’s just plain wrong. And disturbing. Apparently I am the only parent of an 11yr old who feel this way.
    Although in defense of the other parents, all of Cam’s friends have older siblings whereas Cam is the oldest in our family. So what is new to us is old hat to the parents of Cam’s friends.
    Electronic stuff can be toxic to Cuyler – autistic brains become reliant on the immediate gratification that electronics can provide, so we really have to curb gaming and electronics (ipods, ipads) for everybody in the house. We see a huge increase in challenging behaviours when he spends more time than usual on the computer or video game.
    If Cam wants to play with his friends, I’d prefer that he PLAY WITH his friends. Like, outside. Like the old days.

  • Anna

    This is definitely an issue for parents considering the number of video games available and the interest kids have in them. I have an 8 yo DD and a 5 yo DS. The both love technology – video games and app games.
    We have enforced the same limit you mentioned – 60 minutes of technology (including games, TV, iPad etc) a day. Prior to setting this limit they were constantly asking for game time (especially my DS). Since the 60 minute limit started, this is been much improved. We set a timer and it can be started and stopped and used for different types of technology. But when their time runs out, that’s it… no more. I think this works well because there are very clear guidelines and it actually gives them some control. There is no complaining when their 60 minutes of time is up.
    Another thing… in some ways I think video games are actually better for kids than TV. With TV they just sit and vegetate. Video games require thinking and are often highly skill based.
    We also have a 17 mo son and he already knows how to work the iPad and my iPhone. They have been great for entertaining him while waiting at the doctor’s office etc. Video games and related technology are hard to avoid in this day and age!

  • Tracey

    I think it’s a good call, Jason. We’re in the same boat these days – with a similarly sweet, gentle boy without an aggressive bone in his body. (Well, as possible as that can be.) There are some shoot ’em up types of games he’s interested in playing (is that an intrinsically male thing?) and we’ve opted for the same kinds of rules here: not when his friends are over to play, and it’s not all-day play – an hour at the most at a time. And if any sort of behaviour(s) crop up that we deem inappropriate, they will be banished in a nanosecond.
    The same rules apply for his Nerf-gun or water gun play, bow and arrows, and his Swiss Army knife (for outdoor cottage-type days). My eyes are always a bit narrowed…

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